The Broken Ear
begins with a bizarre robbery. A fetish created by the South American Arumbaya tribe is stolen from the Museum of Ethnography, only to be returned the following day - apparently stolen only as a prank. Tintin realises the 'returned' fetish is a fake and quickly discovers that a local sculptor who specialised in making primitive art has died under odd circumstances. Rightly believing the theft and the sculptor's death to be linked Tintin begins his investigation.
Having had a run in with the crooks Ramon and Alonso (also on the elusive trail of the real fetish) Tintin takes ship for the troubled South American republic of San Theodoros where he ends up caught up in a revolution and the intriuges that follow before he finally manages to track down the Arumbayas. Unfortunately Ramon and Alonso are still after the fetish and are fully willing to kill to lay their hands on it.The Broken Ear
introduced General Alcazar, later an important reccurring character and ally of Tintin. With San Theodoros (and its neighbour Nuevo-Rico) Hergé also created the first of his fictional countries and languages - in the original French edition the Arumbayas speak a language based on Marollien (a Flemish dialect) and in the English translation they are speaking phonetic Cockney English!
- Banana Republic: San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico. (When Alcazar makes the drunk Tintin a colonel, Diaz points out that they have far more colonels than they have corporals! This gets him demoted to corporal.)
- Berserk Button: When Tintin is saved by the revolutionaries, General Alcazar makes him a colonel in his revolutionary army. When his aide-de-camp Colonel Diaz points out that they already have thousands of colonels but less than a hundred corporals and suggests that Tintin be made a corporal instead, Alcazar explodes. He immediately declares Tintin his new aide-de-camp and demotes Diaz to the rank of corporal.
- Later subverted when Tintin is fulfilling one of his duties as aide-de-camp, namely playing chess with the General. When Tintin checkmates Alcazar, the general explodes again and shoots at Tintin. Tintin thinks he's going to die, but then Alcazar laughs at his macabre joke, pointing out that the bullets in his gun were blanks.
- Bowdlerize: In the animated series, the fetish is referred to as an idol, due to fetish having a VERY different meaning.
- Chew Toy: Corporal Diaz.
- Darker and Edgier: Even ignoring the revolution and the war The Broken Ear probably has the highest 'onscreen' bodycount in the series the sculptor Balthazar (killed by Tortilla), Tortilla (drowned by Alonzo and Ramon), Corporal Diaz (killed by his own bomb) and Alonzo and Ramon (drowned.) Additionally while the story probably has more gags than the previous adventure the comedy tends towards the dark (see Shot at Dawn below).
- After Alonzo and Ramon die, it shows them in Hell!
- Deus ex Machina: Perhaps literally this time: Just when Alonzo is about to shoot a tied up Tintin the house they're in is struck by lightning that sends Tintin flying out of the house!
- Dragged Off to Hell: Alonso and Ramon after being drowned are seeing dragged by demons presumably to hell. One of the few surreal events in the series. It may count as an Early-Installment Weirdness.
- The Ghost: General Tapioca and Tortilla.
- Going Native: Why Ridgewell stayed in the jungle.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: Both Colonel/Corporal Diaz and Alonso have Bald of Evil and Alonso has a Beard of Evil too. On the good side the English explorer Ridgewell has a long white, bushy beard.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The crook Ramon is a chain smoker of cigarettes.
- Heel-Face Turn: Pablo
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Corporal Diaz.
- Karma Houdini: The odious oil man Trickler and arms manufacturer Bazarov who between them cook up a war.
- Kudzu Plot: The trail of the fetish and who did what is rather tricky to follow. One critical point isn't explained at all, something Tintin directly lampshades.
- Living MacGuffin: Balthazar's parrot.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The animated version removes the character of Ramon Tortilla from the story and has Lopez be not only the one to steal the fetish from the Arumbayas, but also to tell Ramon and Alonzo about it. This makes the story a little easier to follow.
- Punny Name: 'Korrupt Arms'
- Ripped from the Headlines: The war between San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico was based on the then very recent Gran Chaco War, which was indeed engineered by oil and arms companies on the promise of oil that turned out to be nonexistent.
- Running Gag: Ramon always throws his knifes too far to the right.
- Shot at Dawn: Hilariously played with - Tintin is framed as a revolutionary and sentenced to death by firing squad, only to be saved when an officer rushes in with news that General Tapioca has been overthrown and Tintin can thus go free. As he is being untied another officer rushes in with news that Tapioca has defeated the revolution so Tintin will have to face the firing squad after all. Fortunately their rifles have been sabotaged and by the time they have been fixed the revolutionaries really have won.
- Spared by the Adaptation: As mentioned under Darker and Edgier, the book ends with Alonzo and Ramon falling into the sea, drowning, and being dragged to hell by black devils with pitchforks. In the famous 1990s animated series, Tintin manages to grab them and save them from drowning, sending them to prison instead.
- Those Two Badguys: Alonzo and Ramon.
- Unknown Rival: Corporal Diaz begins a vendetta against Tintin and Alcazar, and not only does he do more harm to himself than to them, but half the time they don't even notice his attempts on their lives.
- We Are Struggling Together: Alonzo and Ramon drown at the end because they don't realise Tintin has escaped and each is trying to drown the other, thinking he's Tintin.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: It's unclear how Tortilla learned about Lopez and the fetish in the first place, something Tintin lampshades.